A lighthearted morning trip to test a new drone turns deadly for attorney Alexa Williams and two close friends when they find a stranger’s bullet-riddled body in a remote field in rural Pennsylvania. Next to the dead man is a note that declares: Allahu Akbar.
Trying to shake the gruesome discovery, Alexa returns to her busy law practice and personal life. She’s representing a Syrian refugee family whose son has been bullied at school.
Old love Reese Michaels is back from Africa and living in nearby Harpers Ferry. He and Alexa are tiptoeing through a delicate dance as they rekindle the spark between them. Alexa is also taking Krav Maga classes at a local studio for self-protection. The studio owner, the widow of a soldier killed in the Iraq War, is fast becoming a friend. If that’s not enough, Alexa’s parents are pulling her into a flurry of social commitments as they host an International Fellow at the US Army War College, an Iraqi general, and his colleague, a decorated American colonel.
When another man is found executed near Harpers Ferry, Reese becomes a suspect and Alexa wonders just how much he’s changed since working in Africa. After a third murder, an improbable fear of Islamic terrorism spreads like wildfire through Alexa’s small Pennsylvania town. When the police arrest the oldest son of the refugee family for the murders, her Syrian clients become the focus of mounting anti-Muslim rage, and a dangerous militia group targets Alexa.
One dark night in the dead of winter, Alexa discovers how all these threads intersect, and she must race to stop an attack that could kill hundreds. If she fails, she could lose everyone she loves.
The Big Thrill spent some time with award-winning author Sherry Knowlton to discuss the latest installment in the Alexa Williams series, DEAD OF WINTER:
Which took shape first: plot, character, or setting?
Oddly enough, the first germ of an idea for DEAD OF WINTER came to me while I was sitting in my ophthalmologist’s chair, waiting for an eye exam. He had aerial drone footage of the local area running on his computer screen. When I asked him about it, the doctor told me all about his new drone and how he took the video. Naturally, my immediate thought was, “What if the drone had captured footage of a dead body?” The plot for the fourth book in my Alexa Williams suspense series just flowed from there.
What was the biggest challenge this book presented? What about the biggest opportunity?
I like to write about topical themes that will connect the reader with current issues—but through a suspense story that sweeps them along and involves them in the issue in a different way, rather than listening to the daily news. The challenge in writing a book that takes well over a year from writing to publication is that the issue may no longer be topical by the time it’s launched. The Syrian refugee crisis had been all over the news and on everyone’s lips during a trip I took to Europe right before I began DEAD OF WINTER. Although that humanitarian disaster hasn’t gone away, it’s faded from the headlines. But, sad to say, with refugees, there’s always a new crisis, so the Central American refugees seeking asylum have created an opportunity for the book to, once again, be topical.
Sherry Knowlton, award-winning author of the Alexa Williams suspense novels, Dead of Autumn, Dead of Summer, Dead of Spring and DEAD OF WINTER, developed a lifelong passion for books as a child. She was that kid who would sneak a flashlight to bed at night so she could read beneath the covers. All the local librarians knew her by name.
Now retired from executive positions in the health insurance industry, Sherry runs her own health care consulting business. She is also “rewriting retirement” by turning her passion for writing into a new career. She draws on her professional background and global travel experiences as inspiration for her novels.
Sherry and her husband, Mike, began their journey together in the days of peace and music when they traversed the country in a hippie van. Running out of money several months into the trip, Sherry waitressed the night shift at a cowboy hangout in Jackson Hole, Wyoming and Mike washed dishes in a bakery. Undeterred, they embraced the travel experience and continue to explore far-flung places around the globe.
Sherry lives in the mountains of south central Pennsylvania, where the Alexa Williams suspense series is set.
To learn more about Sherry, please visit her website.